Mauricio Pochettino is off to the best start despite the lack of transfer activity around the club and will be happy to get the season up and running
One of the only upshots from Tottenham’s fruitless transfer window is that there is no bedding-in period required for new signings because they haven’t got any.
Indeed, it was slightly surreal in this age of hyper Premier League spending to see two teams kick off on the first day of the season with 11 players each of whom were on the books last season.
Rafael Benitez had the likes of Yoshinori Muto, Ki Sung-yueng, Salomon Rondon and Fabian Schar in reserve. That flurry of activity late in the window quelled some of the discontent on Tyneside but not enough to prevent a well-attended fan protest outside owner Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct store on the city’s Northumberland Street before
Newcastle supporters have had enough of Ashley’s tight-fistedness and there remains a barely-contained frustration that this club could be something huge if only the right money could be spent on it.
Spurs fans have not quite reached that stage with their owners even if some could hardly believe no new players arrived in the summer. Spurs were interested in some decent names, with Anthony Martial, Lewis Cook and Wilfried Zaha all linked, but come the new season it was the same old faces.
Happily, these same old faces have been good enough for three consecutive top-three finishes and there was a characteristic fluency in the manner in which Spurs carried out their manager, Mauricio Pochettino’s orders.
They perhaps lacked a central focal point in midfield until Mousa Dembele was summoned from the bench with around 25 minutes to play and Eric Dier still remains an awkward fit in that position from which Pochettino wants his team to get going.
Still, Spurs were well-drilled enough for Moussa Sissoko to fill in on the right whenever Serge Aurier was minded to get forward. It was a mixed bag again from the Ivorian – with Kieran Trippier absent altogether – but his cross for Dele Alli’s goal was exquisite.
Newcastle had been disjointed and did not merit the equaliser at the time they got it. The presence of Joselu in the line-up is often cited as evidence by the Toon Army that new strikers are needed around the club. Rondon received a hero’s welcome when he appeared but it was the much-maligned Spaniard who nodded in Matt Ritchie’s cross to get Newcastle level in the first half.
Until that point Spurs were quite in control and had the upper hand on the scoreboard thanks to Jan Vertonghen’s close-range effort. They were fluid in their attacking positions. Lucas Moura often looked like a strike partner for Harry Kane with Christian Eriksen and Alli floating between the centre of the field and the left.
If there is one cause of concern for Pochettino it will be that Kane did not appear to be at his sharpest. That is natural considering how little a break he’s had and how much of a toll the World Cup campaign with England is bound to have taken. That goalless August albatross is still around his neck and he will have to use the next few games to play himself into form.
Still, Spurs could not have asked for more here. This is their eighth consecutive opening day away game and, in 2018, St James’ Park has not been a happy hunting ground for away teams. Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea have all been beaten here and only relegated West Brom – in April – escaped with all three points before this.
Indeed, there was some luck to be ridden when Kenedy messed up a tantalising Joselu through ball and when Rondon’s deflected shot came back off the crossbar.
Spurs started last season off with a 2-0 win here on Tyneside but their away form from there on in was more mixed than might be expected. But with many of their World Cup stars not at their freshest – or not here in the case of Trippier and Danny Rose – Pochettino will be happy to lean on the unity that comes with a settled squad.
That unity was demonstrated at full-time when Pochettino greeted every one of his Spurs squad as they departed the field. There was a high five and a hug each with a special smile coming across the face of debutant Luke Amos.
Ben Davies gave a hearty “Cheers Boss!” and, when finished with his players, Pochettino turned to salute the travelling Spurs fans high up in the away end.
With the points pocketed, Spurs and Pochettino can now look ahead to bigger challenges